Creating a photo website - part 6

Whoa, what gives? Yes, you are absolutely reading about a Wordpress-based photography site on a blog that is no longer based on Wordpress. I seemed to get a fair bit of traffic on my site from people wondering how to do this, so I am leaving these posts here for posterity. That said, the internet world has evolved quite a bit in the last four years, so I now use a system that is simpler in some ways, but immensely flexible. So read about this newer flat-file CMS approach as I document it over the next few months.

Version 3.0

By the fall of 2009, the web world had moved ahead quite rapidly. Photo-sharing sites were plentiful. And blogging had become about as common as breathing. Meanwhile, the software systems to support blogging had also developed into something quite sophisticated. I began to think about transforming my site once again, except I would attempt to make it a truly dynamic1 site, which it had not been up to this point.

I had experimented with using the free Wordpress blogging software as a Content Management System (CMS)2 in 2007. At that time, it still tended to make sites look ‘bloggy’, and had limited capability for adding easy navigation among static pages on the site. It could be modified, but this required a level of knowledge of CSS and PHP that I did not have time to acquire. But the 2.x releases of Wordpress added some additional capability for navigation and static page creation that made using this software a very viable option for creating a website.

And it was an opportune time to recreate my galleries as HTML galleries instead of Flash galleries. Doing this in Lightroom required no more effort than clicking a different selection on one of the option panels.

It was also at this time that I discovered the Thesis ‘theme’ for Wordpress. This is an ingenious layer on top of Wordpress that allows someone to build a very customized website with user-selectable colors, fonts, menus, layout, and design in a very intuitive and easy way. This is an amazing piece of software that is very simple on the surface, but is conceptually so well constructed that ‘real’ programmers can dive into the guts of things and customize the site in almost any way imaginable. But even out of the box, Thesis will allow someone who is reasonably comfortable with using online forms to easily create a nice website that will not look like a million other blogs that live on the web.

The thesis website has some nice videos explaining some of its features:

And that is the end of the history lesson. The next series of posts will discuss specific techniques, problems and issues I encountered when creating the website you are currently using.

  1. A dynamic site is one in which all the content is stored in a database on the webserver, and any page displayed is assembled ‘on the fly’ by the webserver from content it pulls from the database. This is how virtually all the online stores work. And it is ideal for websites that need to be continually updated. 

  2. The term CMS, or Content Management System goes hand-in-hand with the notion of a dynamic site. A CMS is a fancy way of saying that a site is dynamic and has an underlying database that allows content to be added and modified using some sort of database interface rather than through hand-coding each additional page that is added to a site. 

categories:  marketing, portfolio, presentation, web design